What's inside a golf ball?
If you are like most of the rest of us, then yes you have. There was a time when it was an easy question to answer, for golf ball construction was a simple thing.
Evolution of Golf Ball Construction
With the first recognizable form of the game of golf being played in Scotland in the early 1400's, the common golf ball has had nearly 600 years to evolve. Golf ball construction has been through many upgrades and enhancements throughout the history of the game.
Golf Balls Throughout the Ages
There are four distinct stages in the evolution of the golf ball.
Wooden Golf Balls...
With the game of golf getting its roots on the East Coast of Scotland, the first golf balls were made of wood. Wooden clubs were also often used in conjunction with these balls.
Wooden golf balls were used from the mid fifteenth century until the seventeenth century, when the feathery ball was invented.
Feather Stuffed Leather Covered Golf Balls...
In 1618 a new type of golf ball was created by handcrafting a cowhide sphere stuffed with goose feathers. The 'Featherie' golf balls were manufactured while the leather and feathers were wet.
The time-consuming processes involved in creating a Feathery golf ball ensured that the price was out of reach of the masses. Though expensive, this type of ball had great flight characteristics and made the wooden ball virtually obsolete. For over three centuries the Featherie was the standard, only to be replaced with the advent of the Gutta Percha ball.
Gutta Percha (Gutty) Golf Balls...
In 1848 Dr. Robert Adams began creating golf balls out of Gutta Percha "Gutty". The Gutty golf ball was derived from the dried sap of the Sapodilla tree. It had a rubber-like feel and was formed into ball shapes by heating it up and shaping it while hot.
Almost by accident, it was discovered that golf balls with improperly smoothed surfaces often flew straighter and further than their smooth counterpart. This gave birth to the hand Hammered Gutta Ball. These golf balls were hammered with a consistent pattern throughout with a sharp edged hammer.
Rubber Core Golf Balls...
The advent of the rubber core golf ball changed the face of the game of golf as we knew it. This new design was invented in 1898 by Coburn Haskell in association with the BF Goodrich Company. This new and unique golf ball construction and design featured a solid rubber core, high tension rubber thread wrapped around the core, and a Gutta Percha cover.
This new breed of golf ball also featured a much larger variety of outer designs for improved airflow. The mesh, reverse mesh and Bramble designs gave way to the dimple pattern first used in 1908.
Modern Golf Ball Construction
The first automatic winding machine was patented in 1900 by John Gammeter. This allowed the rubber core golf ball to be economically mass produced. From the original wooden ball to the modern rubber-cored , the evolution of the golf ball has changed the way we play the game of golf.
Wound Golf Ball Construction
Wound golf ball construction is when golf balls have rubber thread wound around
one of two kinds of cores: a liquid center, where the core is liquid-filled; or a solid center, in which the core is made of synthetic rubber. This is then wrapped in either a balata, surlyn or another cover whereas Balata covers are rarely made nowadays. The answer to golf ball construction is no longer simple. Many golf ball manufacturers today use different types of materials in the core and even the cover of their balls.
The characteristics of wound golf balls is greatly influenced by the combination of the core and cover material. Generally speaking wound balls are excellent when it comes to spin effect but perform poorly when it comes to carry or distance. Moreover, due to the soft cover materials used to increase the effect of the winding around the core, wound golf balls lack durability.
One Piece Golf Ball Construction
One piece golf balls are golf balls made of a single, high-restitution synthetic rubber
Two Piece Golf Ball Construction
Two piece golf balls are dual-structure golf balls in which a high-restitution core is wrapped in a cover. This configuration enables the energy at
impact to be transferred efficiently to the ball in flight.
While the core of a two piece golf ball is made of a resin type material, the cover has an extremely durable surlyn coat. Manufacturers keep putting an enormous amount of money into the development of new materials that could be used for core and cover such as titanium for example. A harder golf ball will not be compressed as much on impact, which is usually the case with a 2-piece ball, and will tend to slide further up the face of the club head resulting in an higher take-off angle.
Multi-layer Golf Ball Construction
Multi layer golf balls are multi-layer golf balls in which the core material is wrapped in multiple covers. As a result of the latest advances in technology, manufacturers are now able to flexibly combine materials, degrees of hardness, specific gravity, and so on, in ways that enhance a variety of performance features
Three Piece Golf Ball Construction
3-piece golf balls or Multi-Layer Balls are usually made of a large synthetic core, a thin mantel and a coat.
For optimized weight centering some manufacturers use Tungsten-weights in the centre of the synthetic core. A golf ball which is compressed more on the clubface like most wound balls will not slide up the face as much. Because of the ball's greater deformation the reshaping process is more dynamic and the ball has a flatter take-off angle, a higher rate of rotation, more lift and therefore a higher trajectory.
A three-piece golf ball is generally spins more sideways than a 2-piece ball.
Four Piece Golf Ball Construction
4-piece golf balls or Multi-Layer Balls have a small inner core surrounded by the actual core (synonymous with the 3-piece ball design).
This inner core is surrounded by a thin inner mantel which transmits the relevant distance characteristics from the coat to the core and is thus responsible for that special Balata-feeling.
Golf Ball Dimples and Aerodynamics
All golf balls are designed with dimple patterns on the cover to optimize the balls aerodynamics. The dimples can control many different aspects of shots like distance, velocity, spin control, straightness and trajectory.
Golf Ball Drag
There is two types of drag behind a sphere when it is airborne, laminar and turbulent. Laminar flow occurs over a non-dimpled golf ball and the air separates very early in front of the ball, resulting in less carry. A turbulent flow will occur with a dimpled golf ball because it causes the air to not split as soon and increases the pressure drag. Pressure drag is the air separated behind the golf ball.
Golf Ball Lift
A golf ball's dimples also assist with the ball's lift because they can keep the flow 'attached' while the golf ball spins backward. The backspin increases the speed of the upper surface of the golf ball with less friction than the bottom of the golf ball, which decreases in speed due to more friction. The air that passes over the golf ball gets dragged around to the back of the ball, producing its lift.